Remote Control Soufflés: Challenge of M2M Authentication & Authorisation and Mobile data offloading

Some M2M devices will always connect to the internet using a fixed network connection / Wifi and others will always connect using a mobile network connection using an eUICC but there will be some that will offer both wifi and mobile network. It is these devices that will need to support wifi offloading where possible.  It is for these devices where providing a standard API gateway and AuthN & AuthZ capability will be most complex.

For example, my oven is always positioned in my kitchen and connects to the wifi network to allow me to view inside by a mobile app so that I don’t have to open the oven door during the fifteen minutes a soufflé takes to rise that would cause the temperature to change and my soufflé to collapse. This way I can inspect and control the temperature remotely. It also mean I have an excuse to check my phone during boring dinner parties. Only my app is paired to the oven so only I am authenticated and authorised to remotely check on my soufflé thus there is no potential risk of a malicious guest could accessing my oven app and destroy the soufflé by changing the temperature.

Remote viewing would decrease flop rate
An M2M oven with embedded camera would decrease flops

The majority of my home m2m devices will be static devices, I rarely travel with my oven, and these will in the majority of cases be Wifi enabled. Unfortunately I cannot guarantee wifi coverage throughout my architect’s ivory tower so some mobile internet devices will need to connect over 3G/4G (for example the BBQ in the lower field). The problem for my oven and BBQ manufacturers is that they would need to support both Wifi and the GSMA standard for M2M / smart device SIMs (eUICC). It would then be responsibility of the m2m device to support wifi offload where available.

Authorisation may be necessary when the function of the device is shared amongst a group with one or many people acting as the super administrator. If I sell my oven all of my authentication and authorisation permissions have to be removed from the M2M device but as I will likely buy a new oven with more soufflé capacity I would like to keep my existing settings.  Furthermore if my soufflé skills increased I may take a job in Paris and would need to reregister my oven’s eUICC or wifi connection. In this case I would definitely want to keep all of my authorisation permissions and maybe grant further permissions for all the extra soufflés I’d be baking.

Device resale and device portability are supported by the eUICC specification as they are necessary for widespread adoption of M2M devices. What is less supported is a common standard for AuthN & AuthZ that would allow me to keep my device preferences when I either move with or my devices or sell them and replace them with newer devices.

This is where OpenID Connect may be useful as it enables profile information on top of the authorisation model provided by OAuth 2.0. OpenID Connect 1.0 extends OAuth 2.0 so the client can verify claims about the identity of the end user, get profile information about the end user, and log the user out at the end of the OpenAM session. OpenID Connect also makes it possible to discover the provider for an end user, and to register client applications dynamically. OpenID connect services are built on OAuth 2.0, JSON Web Token (JWT), WebFinger and well-Known URIs.

It remains to be seen whether OpenID Connect will be integrated with the standards for eUICC as part of the GSMA Mobile Connect. Furthermore it will need to be supported by the wifi offloading devices (e.g. my BBQ’s manufacturer) as the standard for all M2M AuthN & AuthZ. It seems likely at first that device authorisation and later home M2M gateways will implement proprietary technologies and will maintain identity in individual walled gardens. My architecture ivory tower has a few of those too.

5 Key Architectural Considerations on Implementing Identity and Access Management for M2M

Identity and access management have traditionally been used to manage the identity and credentials assigned to human users.  Machine to machine devices such as Smart Metering GPRS enabled electricity meters or SIM cards in cars require their own identity and access management capabilities. These include new M2M authentication schemes because traditional authentication schemes always assume the presence of a person. This means that most authentication technologies cannot be applied in machine-centric M2M context. Following from this the following are five keys authentication and authorisation challenges posed by a non-human orientated identity and access management system.

1. M2M Security and Authorisation:

With human user password based security has specific known issues but the secure credentials remain with the individual. With M2M access management it cannot be assumed that a given M2M module assigned to an individual or a system always remains a valid and true association. M2M devices can be lost, stolen, replicated, decrypted and hacked by both well-intentioned or malicious entities. As with BYOD the identity of the M2M must be continually validated using higher levels of encryption & signature that reflect the passive state of M2M devices.

2. Directory Services for M2M:

The increase in M2M services means that the number of non-human identities is growing. This increase requires a directory of all non-human identities which can be both organisationally managed or externally managed. As with the M2M Authorisation challenge a record is required for each individual M2M module.

3. Role and Attribute Management:

M2M device identity management must include roles & attributes that encapsulate its use. This may include the end-user, the service provider, the related services, the available resources, the module’s location, the module’s potential roaming allowance and other usage based attributes. Furthermore, the M2M device may require authorisation according to the data off-load technology such as when switching from GPRS to Near Field Communication data off-load.

4. Module Provisioning:

Individual M2M modules may be assigned to a collective M2M ecosystem and/or a family / person.  Any provisioning operation would require a presumably remote M2M module to be activated as either a standalone item (e.g. single meter system) or as part of a group of items (e.g. collective security systems). Identity provisioning rules that are extensible are critical to ensure both management and maintenance of M2M devices across the ecosystem.

5. Security Updates and Control:
Making changes to M2M modules depends upon the network architecture (GPRS, wired, wireless, NFC etc) but to provide ecosystem security (e.g. security patches) it must be possible to make real-time and near real-time control changes to M2M modules when vulnerabilities and anomalies are detected. Traditional human identity and access management systems can more easily protect against cyber-attack threats by bulky applying patches. With passive authentication systems such as in certain smart meter technology it is not always possible to make an upgrade and there is always the risk that individual modules with an ecosystem can become contaminated. Therefore any architecture must work with an isolating mechanism for quarantining modules and their data.